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Patents Science

Squatting On Life 165

Posted by Hemos
from the what-an-abused-system-we-have dept.
Andy Smith writes "An investigation by The Guardian newspaper has exposed the extent of human and non-human gene patenting by private firms, universities and charities. What stands out about this investigation is that many of these organisations are 'gene-squatting', ie: patenting genes that they do not yet understand. There are currently over 160,000 patent applications for whole or partial human genes, with more than 20% being from one company, Genset."
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Squatting On Life

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  • by bluGill (862) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @04:48AM (#622948)

    this is accually a good thing. You see we don't really understand genes yet. We have obtained vague understandings of some, but it will be years before we really understand them. The patent will expire in 17 (20?) years.

    By the time we understand and can do anything we the gene with patented number 18953894 (made up, I don't know if it is a valid number) the patent will have expireed and nobody will be able to use this patent to get money from medical treatment!

  • 1st, how can they patent something that forms naturaly, before they f*cked with it (i'm now going to go patent the dirt in my yard...)

    2nd, does this mean we will have to pay licence fees to reproduce (or worse, to live)

  • Somehow I get the impression that you've redefined the "9th grade education" level as the level required to "read law books and case history". My reading level is MUCH higher than 9th grade level (I really _like_ Dickens & Wilde, among many other authors), and I had to take notes to figure out the details on the papers I signed when purchasing my house. This was not "easy" reading. Coincidentally enough, some of my associates say they don't bother reading those papers - they have their lawyer review them before signing.

    Furthermore, YOUR experience (reading many contracts, civil statutes & case histories) is precisely the kind of training that someone has to receive to be able to interpret legal language. This is quite similar to learning how to read published academic proofs - if you're not used to reading them, you'll find it rough going.

    Even given that a given statute has been written in a "clear and concise" manner, this doesn't address how "clear and concise" the effects of that statute is going to be in the context of the huge body of existing law - on all governmental levels (federal, state, local, agency, etc). Going back to the "systems-level" example for a moment, the PATCH may be clear and concise, but you're applying it to a horrendous monster of a system, with no clear idea what the total effects might be.

    I would like to point out that the "average" citizen shouldn't have to devote a major chunk of their life to studying the law - the law is supposed to describe rules for people to live with each other, not to become a reason for living. The fact that we have to devote a huge chunk of our professional population just to explain our laws to the general population is an indication that the system is FAR too complex, and represents a substantial overhead on the productivity of our society.

    (I'm not going to address the issue of the poor state of US education, other than to say that I do agree that a typical US voter is more likely to favor tax cuts than take pride in a robust educational system - and the more poorly educated they are, the more likely they are to think this way. A vicious cycle indeed.)
  • If the laws weren't so complicated and hard to read that the "average citizen" didn't have a hope-in-hell of understanding even a part of them without a lifetime of learning, then we wouldn't need nearly as many lawyers as the US requires at this point in history. And who wrote the laws? Oh yeah, mainly a bunch of lawyers. Can you say "job security"?

    Isn't it amazing that the US's first legal document, the Constitution, can be read & understood by elementary school kids, even though it was written over 200 years ago? Do you think they'd be able to do the same with a chunk of the US Tax Code?

    I don't directly blame the politicians for the current state of US law - I see the whole mess as kind of systemic failure, where the legal code is like an out-of-control software project, where none of the programmers have a deep understanding of the architecture or how most of the code is implemented, so they keep slapping patches on their bits of it and trying to keep the whole house of cards from collapsing (sometimes by ignoring the silliness coming out of the system).

    The fact that most of the "programmers" are lawyers, and are essentially trained by their educational system to write using a dialect which the general populace finds hard to understand, and the fact that they aren't required to DOCUMENT anything (because they assume their source code IS the document :), means that they're going to rapidly construct a monster which (when aroused) will consume anyone whose life it touches.

    Does anyone else here think that the US legal system, and the people writing the laws, could use a real good dose of training in Systems Analysis and Design?
  • and that game is going to be over soon.

    Pharmaceutical companies have screwed themselves because of their success. It's not the patents or patent length that'll kick em in the ass and slow R&D but price controls and a little thing called "compulsory licensing."


    In November President Clinton signed bill H.R. 4461 (Senate counterpart S. 2520), also known as the Medicine Equity & Drug Safety Act of 2000, which will allow wholesalers to import drugs from abroad so that Americans can get the benefit of discounted prices charged elsewhere. Right now companies recoup their research costs from their US customers, while letting customers elsewhere in the world pay a much smaller margin over manufacturing costs. A 3 month supply of tamoxifen (the most widely prescribed breast cancer drug in the world) costs $298 in the US, but only $26 in Canada. Did I mention that tamoxifen has to be taken for up to 5 years? Prozac nets Eli Lilly corp. $2.6 billion a year, retailing for $115 for 45 capsules in the U.S., and $35 in Canada... and the prices are cheaper in places like Africa & Europe.


    The 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. had collective sales of $179 billion the past 12 months and collective gross profit (excess of sales over manufacturing costs) of $121 billion. That $121 billion in gross profit gets reamed if price controls (which is essentially what this bill is) come into play, threatening marketing budgets as well as R&D (a collective $20.5 billion) and pretax income ($40billion).


    It'll hurt em, but do the math and they're still netting a combined profit of roughly $60 billion/year.


    Patents don't get around the compulsory licensing issue either. A foreign government can take away an exclusive product when "the health or safety of a nation is at risk." Under compulsory licinesing a company can produce a drug discovered by a U.S. company in exchange for a licensing fee. Thos efees are chicken feed compared to being undersold by the generic. To quote Pfizer's executive VP of corporate affairs on this point, "It would make it impossible to develop lifesaving medicines from the human genome system."


    Patents themselves are not the guaranteed safe haven for these companies they once were if you consider that next March Congress will hold hearings on whether to reduce the length of monopoly ptotection from 20 years to 10.


    Patents? Bah, these companies have got bigger problems. To rely on what IMHO are stupid and specious patents anyway is not something to bet your bottom line on.

  • This is not to say that I support gene patenting.. but I believe the reason for it is to provide an incentive for companies to research genes.
    Gene patents are allowed for the same reasons as other patents, the company gets a limited monopoly in the hope that they will be encouraged to invest more in research. However, the current patent system works very poorly in the field of biotechnology.

    For inventions that require a lot of work up front (for example the internal combustion engine), patents work well because you know that after the patent is granted you can recoup (some of) your investment. The work required to apply for a gene patent is routine these days, which is why companies like Celera [celera.com] and Incyte [incyte.com] can easily swamp the patent office with thousands of gene patent applications. A gene patent application will generally state what function the gene is thought to have, but normally that will be a computer prediction with no experimental backup. Once the patent is granted and if the company thinks there is a chance that the gene will make them money later the long and difficult laboratory work will start. The "if" in the last sentence is a big if.

    If there was no such thing as a gene patent, then it would probably be much longer before we got a cure for cancer and whatever other genetic diseases there are.
    That isn't at all certain. If the company can't see a way to make money directly, they will often put the patent to one side. They can afford to do that because compared to the cost of developing a drug (tens or hundreds of millions of dollars), one gene patent is cheap (tens of thousands). Because they are so cheap, the biotech companies are rushing to stake their claims without knowing which genes are the most important or valuable. And while a company holds a patent on a gene that all other companies and research institutions find it difficult (or impossible) to do work on the same gene. This is especially difficult for academic institutions where people are doing fundamental research rather than working on a particular disease.

    Summary: Getting a patent on a gene is (relatively) easy, doing the laboratory work to develop a drug is (relatively) hard. Under the current system companies can get a patent before doing anything difficult. Meanwhile everyone else finds it more difficult to the challenging and expensive part because patents keep getting in the way.

  • I'm really not convinced that the airwaves wouldn't go into chaos if it were left to businesses. Is there a case anywhere in the world where there are lots of radio stations and no bandwidth allotment?

    I know that using the same or overlapping frequencies is wasteful of power, I didn't think of it at the time though.

    I'm not a proponent of big government, nor am I a proponent of big business. Both have different goals and should be used to keep each other in check.
  • Humans create other humans all the time. It can actually be a very engaging process ;)

    All crop plants and most domestic animals are also artifically created by humans (the vast majority through selective breeding or other random genetic modification procedures).

  • Um, this is not a criminal issue (at least not yet), so it's not like International Biological Masters, Inc. can have me jailed for using my genotype without paying a license fee. So if there were no lawyers, there would be no one to file patent infringement lawsuits, hence nothing from which I needed to defend myself. Besides, they can have my genes when they rip them from my cold, dead fingers. And frankly, I'd prefer the right to bear personal defense weapons to defend myself from real threats to my person, rather than some police state which runs a protection racket "legitimized" by an incessant bureaucracy of lawyers.
  • All sorts of things have been patented. Most drug patents involve minimally the production procedure of the drug and the molecule itself. The USPTO recognizes patents on chemical compositions. For example: Searle makes a Cox-2 inhibitor named Celebrex. Searles patent covers both the manufacturing procedure and the compound itself. If you could develop an entirely unrelated organic synthesis procedure to produce the target molecule, you would still not be able to sell it as the molecule itself is protected.

    It is true that entirely naturally occuring compounds are more or less unpatentable, but chemically modified versions or purification/separation techniques are not. Since most natually occurring pharmacologically compounds are toxic or have minimal efficacy in their natural state... you have to modify them. There are still ways, however, under US law, to patent not only the formulation, but the treatment based on the administration of the compound (modified or not), also effectively securing rights to use the compound (for whatever you claim).

    Most drug companies are now aiming for drugs designed entirely synthetically or through genetic manipulation to target very specific molecular targets. None of the resulting compounds are known to occur in nature and all are patentable at the level of the molecule itself.

  • Good point. Ultimately, it's going to be economic pressures that drive how these genetic tools are going to be used. We're probably going to see things that make nice profit margins instead of being made for the good of mankind.

    But if a corporation could use a gene to cure cancer, or a gene for acne medicine, which do you think will make them more money? If you could make a cancer cure, and patent it, how much money do you think you could milk from the millions suffering through it out there?

    It's a sad state of affairs, but with the patent office and our society in general set up the way it is, I don't see it changing any time soon.
  • That one's going in my quote file.
  • This whole IP genetic patent thing really bugs me. It's atrocious to think that we as human beings can be so bold as to claim ownership to the building blocks of life. I'm sorry ma'am, but your newly conceived child is a clear infringement of our IP, you will have to turn it over to our RnD dept. immediately.

    I don't want to be around when some Deity decides to cash in on copyright infringement. place big booming voice here layered with reverb "THAT'S MY IP!!!" ZAP!!!!

  • Yes- OOOOOOPPPPs

    Genentech was the growth hormone I think (must drink more coffee) but as you say it doesn't make much difference
  • I agree with everyone that it's ridiculous to patent a gene whent he company did nothing other than see that the gene's there. However, I don't think that you would make much money selling a cure for cancer that you invented, if it were just a pill without a patent.

    While you would have to charge a significant amount for it because you'd have to recoup the money spent developing it, other companies could sell it dirt cheap because they have no prior investment to recoup.

    Nobody would be likely to buy from you.

    My ideal gene patent system: A company can patent drugs or processes that affect a particular gene for 5 years or so.

    ------------
    The libertarian party [lp.org]

  • DNA is opensource. The genome is mostly online and searchable. Develop the technology and you will be able to apply diffs.

  • Is a world without advocates really a world in which you want to live? The weak will be left to the mercy of the strong, and we'll be in exactly the same situation where we are today, except both sides will be even more ignorant of their rights and privileges, and disputes will get even sillier.

    Oooh. Pull the other one, it has bells on it. Look at the strong (i.e., the rich). Note how many lawyers they have working for them. Now look at the weak (i.e., the poor). Note how many lawyers they have working for them. Then tell me again how the lawyers protect the weak from the strong. Lawyers, with a few honorable exceptions, are tools by which the rich extract what they want from the poor, not vice-versa.

    Chris Mattern
  • The people submitting and reviewing the patents are themselves proof of prior art!

    Genset - "We'll be the first ones against the wall when the revolution comes (tm)!"


    Arrgh! This is annoying.

    --
  • This is not to say that I support gene patenting.. but I believe the reason for it is to provide an incentive for companies to research genes. If there was no such thing as a gene patent, then it would probably be much longer before we got a cure for cancer and whatever other genetic diseases there are.

    And since a lot of companies started expensive gene researching under the impression that they could patent the genes, it would be pretty cruel to reject their patents (to the companies and their stockholders.)

    Perhaps a good compromise would be to limit the patents to 5 years or so?

    -------
    Libertarian party [lp.org]

  • probably the same way the feds can 'auction' off electromagnetic spectrum to the highest bidder.

    Actually, they aren't auctioning the spectrum, they're auctioning the use of the spectrum. Much better than having a hundred different companies trying to use the same frequency at once, no?

  • by lost_it (44553) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @04:51AM (#622971)
    From the Human Genome Project's website:
    The patentability of inventions under U.S. law is determined by the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in the Department of Commerce. A patent application is judged on four criteria. The invention must be "useful" in a practical sense (the inventor must identify some useful purpose for it), "novel" (i.e., not known or used before the filing), and "nonobvious" (i.e., not an improvement easily made by someone trained in the relevant area). The invention also must be described in sufficient detail to enable one skilled in the field to use it for the stated purpose (sometimes called the "enablement" criterion).

    In general, raw products of nature are not patentable. It's usually when these DNA products have been isolated, purified, or modified to produce a unique form not found in nature that they become patentable.

    For the rest of the explanation, go to:
    http://www.ornl.gov/hgmis/elsi/patents.html

    The Human Genome Project's web page is at:
    http://www.ornl.gov/hgmis/

    Hopefully this will clarify things for people who don't understand what is meant by "patenting genes"
  • Their not auctioning off the spectrum itself, but rather the right to use it, lest we have anarchy with people stamping on each other's signals.

    --
  • The patent office doesn't care about the merits of an application. They just confirm that no else has has applied before you for the same thing. Because of the load of applications they have taken a stance of lets do our best and let the courts settle any disputes. Most anything can be patented from business pratices to even obviuos software features (thank you Amazon)
  • OpenSource the DNA! I can imagine however, a future world populated by people who are Tailored and others who are "Free-range." Personally, I talked with my only living creator, my Mom - and although she was initially against me GPLing my DNA, I explained to her that although she was a co-creator of me, that I did have a right to choose what I do with my life, including what I want to do with my DNA. She really liked the idea that people could tinker and modify my genes as long as she retains the original credits - she never liked my nose, and perhaps Glebite-3.99Nose-pre-4.0.diff patch would work out for the better... But as for companies claiming ownership, my Mom would like to talk with their CEO about 26 hours of labour and how much of the pain she would like to share with them.
  • No, they are actually patenting the specific nucleotide sequence of the genes they identify.
    General (and obviously, patented) methods for the synthesis of arbitrary DNA strands have been in common use for several years now. You just specify the nucleotide sequence, send the form to a company and a few days later you get your DNA. The technique is mostly used to make short DNA primers (for PCR reactions and other lab applications). Synthesising a complete gene with several hundred nucleotides would still be very expensive, but is already possible. I don't think you could now patent a method to synhesise any specific gene zith these genaral methods available.
  • You seem to be labouring under the assumption that they know what they are doing. Why do you assume this? Owning lots of IP != clue
    --
  • It was a minor correction for gosh-sakes.
  • AAAAAAAaaaaaa haAHaHaAHaHA haAHAHaHa AHaHaAHAHa hAHaHaHaHaHah aAHAHaha haHaHaAHAHAH!!!!

    You strike me as a loose keyboarder

    ideut..

  • yea and it aint you. patents are supposed to help the economy. all they do is support of profession of people who analyze artificial man made rules, with no understanding of the principles at hand. abolish patent law. you think that will hurt the economy? then abolish the income tax if its not enough incentive, then tough shit. nobody ever said investment should be risk free.
  • I have filed a patent for the phone number of the white house. I discovered it in the phone directory and created a version which exists outside of it's normal context. I do have a working model and know what it can be used for.

    Don't you dare dial that number, or you'll have to pay an ungodly license fee to me.

    How far do companies think they can push it before it breaks? If you publish it, it's public. If you really want to keep it to yourself, hide it in a safe or obfuscate it. The patent system was invented for a reason, but companies are abusing the system and now it does more harm than good. If they can't behave themselves, the whole patent system will be dumped, so watch it!

  • Wrong - see Regents v. Moore (Calif. case several years ago, and currently the most-recognizable precedent in biologic property law regarding human subjects, or donors). In the Moore case, even though Mr. Moore had expressly DENIED permission for researchers to take tissue or blood samples for "R&D," they did so anyway, and after a couple of years found out that their discovery was worth billions. So at that point, being the nice guys theyt were, they went back to Mr. Moore and said "surely you must have been mistaken when you checked the no box instead of the yes box on our form." Mr. Moore said something to the effect of "Fuck you, you shitty bastards. You owe me lots of money." Judge said Mr. Moore will never see a penny. But he can always take comfort in the fact that his leukemia brought so much joy to these underappreciated researchers.
  • no its not. why would it be? it should be up to industry to develop it's own means of protecting signal integrity. not government beaurocrats.
  • If I pack enough food, I can mail myself back to my house, and as long as I dont get out of the box, I can copywrite all my own genes!
  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @04:30AM (#622984)
    How can you patent something that you discover rather than invent?

    If Ug had patented the color of the daytime sky 30K years ago, would the rest of us have to pay a fee to view it?
  • the moral and ethical issues need not even be addressed. from a purely economic standpoint the ability to patent anything need not exist. on one hand the government grants temporary monopolies. on the other hand it taxes away 25% of the profit you make off your discovery. its a study in inefficiency, almost beautiful in its ridiculousness. i wonder what kind of % of the national budget supports the irs and the uspto.
  • if there were no patent law and no companies doing this research, would the market still exist? yes. would the potential for profit still exist? yes. could you estimate the costs and potential profits, compare to the level of risk you are willing to incur, and decide to make the investment? yes. should the u.s. government be in the business of removing risk from the economy? no.
  • Just because you can make your religion internally self-consistant by ignoring the evidence of your senses doesn't mean that god exists.

    It just means you have invented something you can't falsify.
  • The author. The creator. GOD!
  • I'm not anti-patent, but this is ridiculous. I can understand and fully support them patenting any inventions or procedures they use for mapping the human gene. Genes are something that exist, its just a new frontier of human exploration. Columbus couldn't patent America and these people shouldn't be able to patent a gene.

    If they patent the inventions that help them discover the genes then they can make money (license the patents) and there's enough money involved that you can bet that people will try to innovate competing schemes of gene exploration.

  • by jmv (93421) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @04:32AM (#622990) Homepage
    Can anyone explain how the hell it's possible to patent a human gene? I'd like to know that, since you can't fight what you don't understand and I sure don't understand why there isn't just about 1 billion year of prior art (well, ~30000 if it's a human-specific gene, but still)...

    Is there anyone out there who knows?
  • by kyz (225372) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @04:57AM (#622991) Homepage
    These patents are here to protect the investments of the genetics companies who have been researching into genetic engineering and gene therapy. It doesn't come cheap, why shouldn't they patent their findings?

    No, you'll actually find that companies are patenting particular sequences without knowing what they do. Patents are not there to give someone a monopoly for the hell of it, patents are meant to add knowledge to the public domain, by offering the the inventor a limited monopoly for it. If they want a monopoly, they should have to tell us what the genes do first. This is just typical of how corrupt the patent system has become; companies expect to get outright monopolies based on overbroad patent applications. The idea of 'inventing' something and having that protected has long gone. I would go so far as to say this is a good thing in many ways. It stops unscrupulous cowboy genetic's companies messing around with a set of genes in say, maize, and creating some sort of super-weed. At least this way, only the people who actually know what they are doing can apply their findings to genetic engineering.

    More rot. Only governments can demand scientists stop messing with genetics. A patent doesn't stop you from doing something, it just passes control to the patent holder, Mr Drug Company. Do you think they give a rat's ass about gene splicing? Not if they can make money off it.

    The other bit I don't like is that these patent monopolies will destroy the research community. It's no longer collaborative research within the scientific community, it's private hands-off-this-is-mine greed driven research.
  • A giant (R = 1 km) disk approcahes earth and starts orbitting it, is is discovered that it's surface is completely covered with numbers.

    Somebody discovers that those numbers are all made up of two prime factors. The race is on .. Everybody and his brother starts crunching numbers to decode the message.

    Should the resulting combination of prime numbers be patentable ?


    --
    Why pay for drugs when you can get Linux for free ?

  • Wasnt that Jesus?

    Yes, Jesus == God == Holy Spirit, the holry Trinity and one of the central mysteries of our faith.

    Didn't you learn anything in CCD?
  • It's a good thing I have some red maples. Will I owe less for variagated varieties?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hello. My name is Jesus H Christ, and I would just like to complain about this. My Dad is always getting ripped off - he invented these things years ago.
  • The biggest problem with this is that in many cases of human gene research the person the genes came from doesn't get anything at all. Doesn't 2 billion years of evolution count as prior art?
  • Cruel? It would be cruel to me if my genes were pattented by some shmack company, I had these genes for much longer than the company existed! Will we have to pay royalties on the use of our own genes now? I guess not, but we'll pay alot for those gene cure techniques
  • Take a piece of wood. Shape it into small sticks, square cross section at one end, round at the other, and patent it as a chinese food eating implement. Does that stop someone taking a piece of wood, shaping it much, much bigger, and patenting it as a skull-crushing device?

    I would hope that a so-called 'gene patent' is only applicable to the area in which the patent is registered.

    But I am not a lawyer, or at least I wasn't last time I checked.

    Baz
  • which means you now have no right to make any "things from gene sequences", so if your wife gets pregnant you'll be sued by MPAA, RIA, NSA, AND DNA
  • I suppose what pissed a lot of people off immediately was the idea that one could apply for (and receive) a patent on a gene sequence that wasn't fully decoded. This is totally illogical.

    But then I remembered that I've come across this before in an anniversary of the British magazine, "The Engineer" a couple of years ago. The article covered the patent war between the Victorian-era inventors responsible for the development of the internal combustion engine. Many of the patents granted to these inventors were since found to be based on faulty and sometimes downright erroneous notions of what chemical/ mechanical processes were actually happening in these engines. In other words, the inventors themselves had no more clue what was happening in their engines than anyone else! Yet it did not stop them getting into pointless and vicious disputes and lawsuits with other inventors, which may have slowed down the development of what was probably the invention of the 20th century.

    Does patent law allow for the re-evaluation of a patent in the light of new scientific discoveries? What is the status of a patent based on erroneous premises?

  • For a start they're not patenting the gene itself, they're patenting an application of the gene i.e. a treatment based upon the gene, an isolated version of the gene (not the same as the ones in your body) or a modified version of the gene. This immeadiately cuts down on half of the scare stories that seem to be circulating here.

    Yes, I think that a company shouldn't be able to patent a gene for which they have nothing but the raw chemical itself, they should have a good idea of what it does first.

    But, the basic idea of patenting genes is no different from patenting any other invention. Biotech research is a very risky, expensive business, and for every Viagra out there, there are a thousand chemicals that didn't work or weren't safe to use. And because it's an industry where espionage is rife, seeking patent protection is about the only way these companies can ensure they see any profit on what they spend millions researching.

  • So, does that mean that one day someone can charge for wheat? Or charge others to tinker with the genetic code for wheat? I mean ye gods, I may be crazy, but this is f*cking RETARDED!

    This already happens. There are certain types of animal feed and even paritcular types of seeds for certain crops that have been "fiddled" with that farmers pay extra for. It's GM food (genetically modified), and you've been eating it for years - fruit, vegetbales, everything. Perhaps the true GM-free organic frenzy hasn't hit the US yet, but in the UK it's a well-formed bandwagon these days.

    The point about patents, is that they are not ever-lasting, but they enable a company or individual who has invented or discovered something, perhaps at considerable cost, and who now wishes to capitalise on that work.

    Let's suppose a company spends $1 billion pounds on discovering that switcing a paritcular gene makes you immune to HIV. That's one hell of a bill to pay, but it's certainly a worthy cause. They need to recoup that $1 billion and make some more money so that they can research other genes and their relationship with cancer. So they patent this knowledge.

    They then have exclusive rights to develop the medication based on this knowledge. They sell it at $5 a pop, and they'll make about $5 billion back within a few years (HIV is more prevalent in developing countries than you think). They've made their money, the drug is out there, they've saved millions of lives. 20 years down the line, the patent expires, and everybody can use this knowledge.

    At a more mundane level (and an application that already exists), suppose somebody works out that by tweaking a particular bit of DNA in wheat, the crop yield ends up higher - pretty damned useful stuff, especially in famine areas. If they spend $1 billion on developing that, are you saying they should give it away free of charge? How do we then invest in the next generation? How do we benefit from gene research in the long run? How is research into genes funded at all?

    It is patents that allow investment in creative and speculative projects to happen. At the end of the day, everybody wins ultimately - think about the benefit to mankind as a whole, not just to you. Next time kids, think before flying off the handle.

  • by Bazman (4849) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:11AM (#623011) Journal
    Someone from one of the genetic research places was trying to explain this on BBC Radio 4 this morning. His argument was that they weren't patenting genes, but patenting medicines ('molecules') that used the genes as part of themselves. In other words, they take a chunk of DNA that makes a useful substance (say, insulin), then diddle around with it chemically to make it into a drug you can take orally.

    They argue that if they can't stop other people using the gene in medicine then they cant afford to carry out the R+D.

    So the media latch on to this and call it 'patenting life' and 'privatising genes'. The genetic sequence is not private, as far as I can tell, but the patents are designed to stop people making things from gene sequences.

    Baz
  • by HvidNat (148511) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:14AM (#623013)

    You've always been permitted to patent discoveries. The majority of chemical compounds for which patents have been issued have been isolated from nature (and, often, subsequent patents issued on chemical modifications thereof). The notion is that it's patentable because the "inventor" may not have initially created the compound, but he did recognize it, isolate it, and determine a use for it. Strange but true. In fact, very few patents issued in the past 100 years (in any country) cover something entirely novel -- just novel uses for existing things or modifications of existing things.

    As for gene patents, there is a wide range of them. The majority of genes (patented or otherwise), have a known (or likely) function assigned to them -- in part because it's hard to make the argument that something is a gene without providing evidence that it is (in fact, in the US you can't make such a claim without presenting the evidence). All of the actual genes patented have a known function with one notable exception: cDNA sequences (expressed sequence tags).

    ESTs are, by virtue of experimental design, known to be sequences of expressed genes (at least transcribed DNA). About 3/4 of the ESTs you can produce for a given organism will be readily assignable a putative function as well as info about tissues where the gene is expressed, conditions where the expression occurs, subcellular localization, often times it can even be assigned a place in a particular biochemical pathway. The value lies in the fact that the ESTs can be subsequently used to find tremendous amounts of information regarding regulatory pathways, co-expression, and eve, if you are clever, where the other 1/4 of uncharacterized ESTs come into the equiation. ESTs can also be used as the basis of a slew of technologies that permit researches to visualize the differential activity of all genes in an organism in response to environmental and developmental factors. ESTs themselves can even produce simple drug targets. This type of information and the systems built up around it are probably justifiably patentable.

    That said, many corporations patent large collections of genomic sequences as well as ESTs. This is raw DNA from the organism that has been sequenced in tiny pieces and the tiny pieces assembled into large chunks. Why? Well, not every gene is expressed in high enough levels to be readibly detectable in EST libraries and if you want to find them, you need the genomic sequence. The genomic sequence also gives you information about the spatial arrangement of genes, large scale structure of information storage including synteny (where a huge chunk of one genome appears in another genome but rearrangements), colocation of genes (genes in similar pathways tend to congregate), mapping mutations, etc. Genomic information can, if properly handled, also be used to contribute to gene discovery and the whole-genome profiling of gene expression.

    I suppose the question is whether or not the inherent an immediate utility of sequence information to molecular biologists and bioinformaticists meets the minimal requirements for patentability. I would say that in the US the answer would be yes, since the information represents an act of discovery (the sequences) and creation (all the sequences are man-made constructs derived from natural sources and annotated in machine-readable form) for which there exists a working model (the constructed libraries and subsequent information derived tehre from) and a definable utility (sometimes a target for drug discovery, but predominantly the utility is for conducting sequence-based research).

    That said... I also beleive that there are many technical grounds upon which someone can essentially generate a parallel set of libraries and information and claim they have something new, and defense against that might be tricky. I'm not sure whether spending the cash to patent all of this information is worth while. Though I'm certain it's beneficial to the consumer since the information becomes public knowledge through the patent process rather than allow companies to conduct genetic entirely out of public view.

  • by mcmcc (228164) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @08:13AM (#623015)
    Suppose one of these patented genes turned out to instrumental in curing a certain form of cancer. The patent-holder demands, say, $1 billion to license the gene for use in this treatment (because of other patents pending, they aren't capable of producing the treatment themselves).

    Suppose I have that form of cancer and death is imminent without immediate medication. This financial gridlock is preventing me from getting the treatment I need to save my own life.

    It seems to me that I should be able to sue the patent-holders for extortion, criminal neglect, and wrongful death (posthumously). Can you give me a reason why I shouldn't win?

    The fact is, these companies can sit on these genes for the next 17 years and not do a thing with them. Why not? They didn't know of a single application of the gene when they got the patent -- why would we assume that they'll ever find one?

    It is criminal to allow someone to hold a patent over the mere existence of a chemical. No matter what the patent actually says, this is in effect what they are doing. If they can't find an application for it that differs significantly from "prior art" (in this case, the human genome), then it shouldn't be patentable.

    By the same logic, I should be able to patent human hemoglobin.

    What the hell, I think I'll patent the entire patent system while I'm at it. The money ought to really start rolling in then...

  • by FFFish (7567)
    "Scientific research is not driven primarily by commercial institutions."

    That's right.

    It's primarily driven by the military.

    --
  • by FFFish (7567)
    You shouldn't expect *that* to last.

    The US government just changed the long-established laws on copyright, because, by gosh!, Disney might lose its copyright on the Mickey Mouse image, and we can't have *that* sort of thing happening!

    The world governments will be damn quick to change the patent period to suit the interests of big business.


    --
  • Too bad Columbus didn't patent the "New World."

  • by krystal_blade (188089) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:20AM (#623030)
    This could really wind up screwing over those idiots at Genotek, or whatever their name is.

    If they want to patent genes like they "made" them, that's fine by me.

    I just keep thinking of the handsome settlement I'll be getting when I can prove in court that they "forced" their genes onto me, and I'm now stuck wearing glasses.

    On the other hand, it's also a good thing that these companies have gotten ALL these patents on things they didn't create. Helps bring the current system down a little further.

    Patenting a gene is kind of like patenting a color. Sure, you can claim that anyone using your color (cornflower for instance) has to pay you money. However, that is not to say that someone mixing Navy Blue (which is GPL'd) and a bit of Sun Yellow, and some Orange can't achieve the same effect.

    Genetics works almost the same way. While they can own the patent on something all day long, they cannot enforce it on anyone who can reproduce the same effect purely by accident.

    On the other hand, finding out who patented genes for sickle cell anemia would be pretty damn funny. Sue them twice. Once for being stupid.

    "So, you are responsible for sickle cell anemia, which affects primarily black people."
    "Well, we didn't actually create it, sir. We just kind of found it, and decided that we would patent it."
    "So, you obtained a patent on something you didn't create, in order to be able to hold something over the black community?"
    "No, we just wanted to patent the actual genes."
    "So, you're trying to extract money from victims?"
    "No, sir. We're trying to do research with our patented item."

    "That you didn't create."

    "Yes"

    "That no one else now has access to but you."

    "Yes."

    "That affects primarily the black community."

    "Yes, that is a statistical fact."

    "So tell me, how are we to beleive that you first locate something in the black community, exploit it to gain a patent, to extract more money from other research on the same subject, then, file a patent claiming ownership, then turn around, and deny that you created your patented item, but only found it, and are somehow not responsible for these 4 million sickle cell anemia victims in front of you?"

    krystal_blade

  • by nagora (177841) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:42AM (#623032)
    The creator. GOD!

    Which one? I think Ptah is still locked in a "prior art" suit with Jehovah. And don't even mention the whole Marduk thing (a lot of us think Jehovah only got away with that one 'cause Moses was such a tricky lawyer).

    TWW

  • This is a desperate grab by the ignorant (who can't even tell tobbaco companies that smoking is not a good idea,) to get a corner on something they can't describe, don't understand, haven't a clue of what it really does or how.

    Its the triumph of greed over common sense.
  • If I had modpoints, you'd be getting some serious karma along the (+5, funny) road.

    But, getting back on topic.

    If a company was to create a completely new gene, even out of an existing one, they *should* have the right to patent the brand new gene.

    Problem is, the pharmaceuticals will make everyone pay out the a$$ for the rights to the gene...
    ...and when someone reverse-engineers the gene, creates it another way, and posts the processes necessary on the 'Net, the pharmaceuticals will sue the creators under the DMCA.

    Just another scenario, my fellow /.ers, of the Possible Abuses of Government & Industry(TM).
    Thus sprach DrQu+xum, SID=218745.
  • We really ought to instate some kind of national Beat a Lawyer day.

    Now, that's rather shortsighted of you. Almost all civil-rights progress in the last hundred years is directly attributable to the tireless efforts of lawyers, as is most civil-rights legislation, which is secured by legislators who are ex-lawyers. Just because a few greedy ones are fighting for others' rights to claim a patent on your gonads doesn't mean the majority are deserving of your disrespect and outright hatred.

    Ask yourself where you'll be in twenty years if there are no lawyers. Heck, look no further than the very topic of this article: gene patents. Governments won't stop awarding these illegitimate rights to corporations; you'll just be without the means to defend them from you. It's entirely unlike civil disarmament, where at least the government has consistently demonstrated it will act on citizens' calls for distress, and so we may safely disarm both sides of the conflict. In the realm of patents, you'll be left completely alone without any defense. There's a reason why even the indigent have the right to legal counsel (see Gideon v. Wainright): it is a truly necessary part of citizenship.

    To be true, lawyers are a force of nature worthy of respect no less than the plummeting waters of a waterfall, which can either flood a village or be harnassed to produce hydro-electric energy. But is a world without lawyers really a world in which you want to live? Is a world without advocates really a world in which you want to live? The weak will be left to the mercy of the strong, and we'll be in exactly the same situation where we are today, except both sides will be even more ignorant of their rights and privileges, and disputes will get even sillier.

    If you disapprove of gene patents, then contact your congresswoman and demand they be excised from patent law. Don't tear down the greatest edifice of the modern American state.
  • What's the difference between "inventing" and "discovering"? It's just philosophical. Perhaps all ideas are "out there" and all inventions are really just discoveries. Perhaps no ideas are "out there" and all discoveries are just inventions.
  • Genes are but software. US allows software patents. Why not gene patents?
    --
  • I thought the patent office was getting strict about only granting gene patents that were part of a *proven* medical function.
  • You want an incentive? Isn't the honor of seeing a journal article attached to your name incentive enough? And if you can't get a journal to print your letter or article on the new gene, perhaps, your discovery doesn't really merit a patent either.

    Scientific research is not driven primarily by commercial institutions. It's driven by academics. Gene liscences, patents, and other concepts of intellectual property stifle the academic process.

    I'm really surprised that Genset has patents on 36000 sequences. Considering tht the median number of human genes is about 53 thousand [ensembl.org], this seems a bit high. Of course, some of Gensets sequences may duplicate genes. More likely however, is the possibility that Genset has patented a goodly number of introns (non-coding sequences).

  • If Ug had patented the color of the daytime sky 30K years ago, would the rest of us have to pay a fee to view it?

    Nope, his patent would have expired 299,983 years ago :) Patents only last 17 years, so this "squatting" strategy seems a little silly. By the time you can actually bring a product to the market based on it, you've probably only got another 5-8 years before everyone else gets to use the results of your research.

  • Then they should patent the specific medical techniques that make use of the genes, not lay claim to the genes themselves.

    As a Libertairan, I'm sure you recognize that there is no such thing as "cruel" in business, only legal or illegal. If they take a risk on dubious patents, they've got nobody to blame but themselves.
    --
    Bush's assertion: there ought to be limits to freedom
  • by Hairy_Potter (219096) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @04:32AM (#623057) Homepage
    Surely his patents have expired by now, as he died 1967 years ago, for your sins.

    Does anyone know if the patent office renews patents when you are born again?
  • by kidlinux (2550) <dukeNO@SPAMspacebox.net> on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @04:32AM (#623058) Homepage
    We all have prior use!
  • by Daath (225404)
    Can they patent genes that are currently in my personal gene pool? That scares me. When I have children, do I have to pay royalty to them?
  • > If the laws weren't so complicated and hard to
    > read that the "average citizen" didn't have a
    >
    > hope-in-hell of understanding even a part of
    > them without a lifetime of learning, then we
    > wouldn't need nearly as many lawyers as the US
    > requires at this point in history.

    The situation is not that bad. An 9th grade education should provide the basis of the English
    reading skills and enough of the Latin etymology to read law books and case history. This level of education should also provide sufficient historical background to understand the context of the laws as they are written. I am not a lawyer, but did work as a legal secretary for a number of years. I have read many contracts, many civil statutes, and many case histories. The language is written to be clear and concise to a fault, not to be intentionally misleading or difficult.

    It's not my fault that the current state of education leaves 9th graders unable to read even the daily newspaper. The same arguments that people raise regarding the difficulty of reading law, can be made for the difficulty of reading, say, Dickens or Wilde. I'll bet the average USAn has trouble with that literature too.

    People bash written laws that they haven't read. Why?
  • Well, if some company is gonna patent my DNA, then I oughta at least get some stock options.
  • An apologist for the patent-meisters was on the radio this a.m. ; he kept referring to it as "patenting artificial molecules that are similar to human genes". He explicitly said (IIRC) that they were NOT patenting chunks of human DNA per se.

    Someone with the mad PCR skillz clue me in?
    --
    If the good lord had meant me to live in Los Angeles

  • Sure, you're using your genes, but not conciously. If you can recite for me your full code, as well as breaking it down into chunks, each defining a single trait (no need to know what the trait is, just as long as you know it's there), then you've got prior art. I agree that it's silly, I think IP has serious problems from the get-go, but I'm not sure that gene patenting is any more ridiculous than any other type.
  • lost_it gave us a quick answer on what this means here [slashdot.org], but I don't think that's what you're asking.

    Mini molecular biology lesson:

    • chromosomal DNA is transcribed into RNA
    • the RNA is a mirror image of one strand of the duplex chromosomal DNA
    • RNA is spliced and modified before it leaves the nucleus of the cell
    • The spliced RNA is translated into a protein

    These concepts are important because the gene is the whole piece of chromosomal DNA which contains all the information necessary for gene product expression. This includes control sequences which do not become part of the RNA, introns which are spliced out, and the information for splice variants. Coding sequences, which end up in the RNA, are mixed with non-coding sequences, which are spliced out. But different coding sequences can be spliced together, and one gene can actually produce several products based on how the RNA is spliced before translation. In some ways, proteins (gene products) are produced by fairly modular bits of genetic code.

    In fact, most molecular biology (recombinant DNA) use does not involve changing the cDNA (and thus the protein product) so much as engineering ways to get the cDNA into a situation where protein can be made. That means giving it viral or bacterial expression control sequences.

    What is generally called a gene in these discussions is not what I would call a gene. Instead, what is often patented is the complimentary DNA, or cDNA. cDNA is made by reverse-transcription, and is a copy of the spliced RNA, but is not the gene. The cDNA is generally patented, and biotech firms try to cover every possible use or version of it -- viral expression, gene therapy, recombinant protein production, etc. Technically these are synthetic products, made by human engineering and not found in nature. However, the techniques are now in the realm of the bloody obvious to anyone in the field, and what is patented are generally theoretical future applications using known technology.

    That's the major bogusness in the whole realm. People can patent sequences which appear to be part of an expresed gene with no known function, based on some possible future benefit.

  • You've always been permitted to patent discoveries.

    No, you haven't. It takes a peculiar and spectacular leap of the imagination to allow the patenting of discoveries, otherwise all sorts of thing of finacial use would have been patented. Actually, that's not true; all it really takes is stupidity. Handily enough stupidity is the current official policy of the USPO.

    The majority of chemical compounds for which patents have been issued have been isolated from nature

    Actually there are almost no such cases. Chemical patents are normally granted for processes, not for the resultants, or even for a particular set of reactants.

    TWW

  • http://www.hgsi.com/patents/index.html also check this linkBIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) has written a document about gene-based patents - Primer: Genome and Genetic Research, Patent Protection and 21st Century Medicine http://www.bio.org/genomics/primer.html For comments on the Clinton/Blair statement about patents and the genome click here (updated 8/4/2000) http://www.hgsi.com/patents/statements.html The mission of Human Genome Sciences is to treat and cure disease by bringing new gene-based medicines to patients around the world.
  • This is very true in a fundamental sense. Seeing as genes are simply sequences of 4 different bases and computer code is simply sequences of 1s and 0s there is no inherent difference between the two.

    Once again this falls into the grey area since the judgement of it is beyond our system. It's very interesting to see how we apply our capitalist ideology to research (most scientists must also find it very sad). The point of the matter is that we live in a system where everything is run by money, not by the concept of the greater good. Sure it would be nice if everyone worked together and there was no reason to hide away information from the 'competitors', but we live in a system that utilizes this mechanism to push forward. I don't think that we could maintain capitalism without having these patents in research - perhaps it's topics like these that will further display the moral and ethical weaknesses of the capitalistic system.

  • by Frums (112820) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @06:15AM (#623082) Homepage Journal
    PATENT APPLICATION SUBMITTED TO USPTO

    Date: 1/06/00

    Patented Submitted By: God (insert name of preferred deity)

    Patent Numbers: 6, 6.1, 6.2

    Patent #6 - Genome
    This patent covers a series of molecule particles combined in such a way as to provide pattern or blue print which through cascading effects eventually produce a functional human being. These sequences will be referred to henceforth as Genomes. The exact sequence of these molecules is controlled by patent #6.1, the HEA (Human Encryption Algorithm)

    Patent #6.1 - Human Encryption Algorithm
    Patent 6.1 covers the HEA or Human Encryption Algorithm. The HEA is an asymmetric encryption algorithm which takes for input two genetically signed Genomes (Genetic Signatures are generated though the HEA encryoption of an individual's Genome). The algorithm will then produce a new Genome that is a unique combination of the two input Genomes. Application of the HEA Algorithm, and the signing process are patented under patent number 6.2, Genome Transmission Protocol.

    Patent #6.2 - Genome Transmission Protocol.
    This section has been classified TOP SECRET and is being held until the NSA has determined if application of the GTP can be used safely in public society. You can be sure we will be testing the Genome Transmission Protocol extensively to determine its security.Umh, we are also accepting applications for Security Enhancement Experiment Partners for this testing program. Please send resume, and photograph, to ADDRESS CLASSIFIED.

    :)

  • by biodork (25036) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @06:18AM (#623083)
    Several Things:
    I think patents, in this case, are a good thing. For example, Genentech patented EPO, and on the basis of this patent produced drugs (recombinant EPO). The time line for drug production, clinical trials, etc... is around 10-15 years, with a price tage or many millions. WHY, without protection from other people piggybacking on your work, would you do this? It is fine to claim that people are blindly patenting, but from a personal perspective of actually being one of those evil people, I think that this is an incorrect statement. We, and everyone else that does this DOES HAVE SOME IDEA. Does that mean that we have all the answers? NO, but to get those answers takes years and dollars, and not insignificant numbers of either of them. Without patent protection, drug companies will not get within a million miles of the gene. All that can be produced with non-patented genes are generic drugs, on which drug companies do not make money. You can argue they make too much money, but there is a reason that the US is at the forefront of the medical world, and money is a pretty good explanation. I do beleive selfish motivation produces the drugs, as that produces the money, and gets you the recognition. This is not like a software problem, where it will be solved by next year. Each gene WILL take years and millions of $, and with a failure rate (defined as not usefull for making a drug out of) at around 80%, you need some protection for the ones that work or you will never make any money.

    EST patents are still under question, with no defense of them being mounted, but I would agree that they suck. You have no function on them at all, so patents on them are wrong. For whole genes, function is a lot more clear (although real far from crystal clear).

    On a related note: If you get govenment grants (majority of researchers in US) you are required to patent, or otherwise protect your work BY LAW. Failure to do so will get you, and your university, in trouble.
  • by Aceticon (140883) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @06:21AM (#623084)
    If company A has the patent on gene X1, why should company B try to develop new applications from gene X1???

    If a company patents a gene or sequence, the potencial revenues that any other company would have if it developed an application from that gene or sequence are reduced. The tendency will be that each company will only investigate applications from their own "pool of patented genes" (to maximize returns).

    How can the reduction in the number of resources being thrown at a certain problem (e.g. crack a certain gene) increase research eficiency?

    If two or more genes which are necessary for a certain process are patented by different companies how many years do you think will be needed before any application is developed for those genes? (I bet it's more than 17 ...)
    Worse, in this situation it is quite likely that one or more of the companies involved will start researching THEIR OWN GENE (it's their's 'cause they bought it) only to find later on that they need another gene which is OWNED by another company - quite likelly they will just scrap the investigation and go try a "more promising" gene (what a waste)

  • Spoken a few years from now............"What do you mean my son is in copyright violation!" "Well sir your son has genes that we've patented." "HELLLLLOOOOOOOO! It's not like I'm sitting at home splicing genes together with tweezers and duct tape! My wife and I had a child!!!" "Oh, so you do admit to patent infringment then!" .......and so on and so forth.
  • Dangit, I just got hit with a suit preventing me from creating copies of this gene. Looks like no more new skin cells for me!
  • I wonder what the cease and desist letters will look like...

    "We demand you cease and desist your infringement of our client's intellectual property. What you flippantly call 'living' is clearly nothing more than a blatant disregard for our client's patent rights."

    We really ought to instate some kind of national Beat a Lawyer day.
  • Is it just me, or do we get closer and closer to Gibson's grim notion of the future?

    Next thing you know, the wealthy corporate types will be buying gene sequences to make their children beautiful and intelligent.

    I swear, that man must be a prophet.
  • Please note that I have recently received a patent on the fact that trees are green and intend to encorce it to the max. From now on, anyone that wishes to depict trees in the colour green must apply for a license from my new company Trees Are Green, Inc. anyone caught depicting green trees without a license will get their asses sued.
  • by beebware (149208) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @04:42AM (#623092) Homepage
    You've heard the saying 'Some people shouldn't be allowed to breed', the saying is now 'People who can't pay the royaltys are not allowed to breed'. :)
    Richy C. [beebware.com]
    --
  • by ch-chuck (9622) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @04:43AM (#623094) Homepage
    probably the same way the feds can 'auction' off electromagnetic spectrum to the highest bidder.

  • But if a corporation could use a gene to cure cancer, or a gene for acne medicine, which do you think will make them more money?

    If a corporation could [use a gene to] cure malaria, or [use a gene to] cure male pattern baldness, which do you think would make them more money? Malaria kills, but it mostly kills poor people. Male pattern baldness has never, to my knowledge, killed anyone, but some people who get it are willing and able to pay major coin to treat or eliminate it. Sad but true.

    Unfortunately there seems to be no cure for this side effect of greed. Governments and charities have tried offering bribes (they call them incentives) to pharmaceutical and biotech firms to get them to work on cures for poor-people diseases, but often all it does is allow more of the corporation's own funds to be funnelled into the rich-people disease divisions. After all, why should they fund any malaria research themselves if they can get someone else to do that?
  • by Masem (1171)
    Patents now expire 20 years after the initial filing process has begun; it used to be that patents expired 17 years after the patent awardee acknolwedged the acceptence of the patent, however, with the way the system worked, the awardee could 'forget' to send in their acknowledgement of the patent, and the USPTO would charge them a small ( Now, with 20 years from the initial application, it takes about 1 to 2 years to complete and finalize a patent application, so companies gain a year or so over 17, but they have no oppurtunity to extend the patent lifetime.

  • I am being paid poorly to be a propaganda machine, and I am pissed.

    For a good example of no government involvement in the economy, look at somalia. There you have business arguing the exact oppisate that you are. They have no infrastructure (roads, telephones, water etc...) and they don't like it.

    I don't beleive that there is any data that the economy (will/will not) stop working if patents were abolished. I do however think, that with the current way that things work, abolishing patents in the life sciences field would stop work on derivative medicines. I base this judgement on knowing how much it costs to get the work done, and how much of the time trials fail, and how long it takes before failure. If you were to remove protection from those companies, I would found a company tomarrow to ONLY make medicines that I knew were profitable.

    Where would the inducement be to do research? You are not going to be able to recoup any of the money that you spend on the research, so why spend it? Competitors will just see what you have done, copy it, and the price will fall to exactly what it costs to produce the drug + whatever the market will bear. There is no room there to pay the people (100's) who spent decades (10 years at a minimum) sheperding it through clinical trials (and thus insuring that we don't kill people). You have to be able to recoup costs, and the governement is the only group that can make sure you do.
  • Not that it matters much, but Amgen are the guys who hold the patent on EPO.
  • If you disapprove of gene patents, then contact your congresswoman and demand they be excised from patent law.

    Not gonna work -- my congresswoman-elect's pockets were lined by pharmaceuticals & insurance companies. They have more money, so they have a louder megaphone than I do (a lowly SysAdmin at an underfunded department in a medium-sized university who does little but read & post on /. all day.)
    Thus sprach DrQu+xum, SID=218745.
  • So what happens if I or one of my offspring happen to have naturally developed a patented gene through mutation? Does it count as a "clean room" implementation, or due we still owe royalties.

    BTW, better check yourselves for this:

    TAGCTAGCTAGCTTTACAGCTACCGCTAGCTTAGCTGA GCTTCTGATCGATCGAAACGATCAGCTGATCGGCTAGCTTA GGCTTAGCTAGCTTAGCGAGACTAGCGATCGACTAGGCGCG CTAGCGGCTAGCTATTATTATATGCGGCCTTAATAGAGAGG AAATATCGACTGACTACTAGCTACGCGCGTACGCT

    because this source code was developed by me just now, is copyright by me, and any unauthorized duplication of this code through sexual reproduction, mitosis, or other means is STRICTLY PROHIBITED.

  • by ch-chuck (9622) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @04:47AM (#623112) Homepage
    the recent sharp uptick in purchases of "Patent Granted" rubber stamps in the DC area office supply stores.

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